Imagine this scenario: You are the project manager of a new, strategic project of your company. Excited, you prepare the necessary documents and schedule the project's kick-off meeting.
The kick-off meeting seem to be going well, until you start presenting the necessities and you notice resistance coming from functional managers in ceding their resources.
And it’s only then you realize your mistake: You should have invited the project sponsor to the kick-off.
Kick-off meetings, which should take place between the end of the planning stage and the beginning of implementation, are of paramount importance to the success (or failure) of a project. And you must prepare.
For the project manager, the kick off is a great opportunity to ensure that your stakeholders are identified, to demonstrate that there is a common gain in the success of the project, to map out the stakeholder predispositions and to ensure that their respective roles are understood.
Here are four things to keep in mind:
1. The Invite List: You must have the other relevant stakeholders in the room—functional managers, the customer of the project product and all those who can have an influence, either positively or negatively.
2. The Meeting Infrastructure: The size of the room, amenities, coffee break and everything else that make the environment appropriate.
3. The Presentation: The kick-off meeting will be your moment to demonstrate that the project is well planned with mapped risks. But, keep your audience in mind. For example, the sponsor, usually an executive with no time to see the details, will be present at this meeting. Make your presentation concise and objective by showing that you have a clear vision of where you want to go.
4. The Sponsor: The great benefit of the kick-off meeting is to get commitment to the development and success of the project. Without it, the project manager always runs the risk of having their needs not met. This is where the essential participation of the sponsor comes in. He or she typically has a politician's nature.
Even though it is up to the project manager to conduct the meeting, it is essential that, soon after the welcome is given, the project manager gives the floor to the sponsor. They can use their position within the organization to "suggest" to those involved to give their support, resources and conditions to the project manager on behalf of the expected results of the project. With the sponsor message given—even if he or she leaves right after they speak—there is a greater chance that everyone else will understand and support the project and that will make the rest of the meeting easier for you.
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